Ingrown toenails often become infected. In fact, this is sometimes the first sign one notices with their ingrown toenail, as many people have ingrown toenails that do not bother them. The signs of an infected ingrown toenail include redness to the skin next to the nail, drainage in the form of a clear fluid or a thick pus, as well as scabbing from dried drainage. The side of the toenail can be painful to even light touch. The pain is worsened with being stepped on, as well as with wearing tighter shoes.
As the skin along the side of the toenail becomes swollen from inflammation, it expands into the nail plate. This causes the skin to trap any debris and bacteria underneath. This enclosed environment is ideal for the growth of bacteria, and an infection can soon develop as the bacteria multiply. Antibiotics can easily treat this infection, but unless the part of the nail enclosing the bacteria inside this 'pocket' of skin is removed permanently, the infection is likely to retune at some point.
Ingrown toenail infections are usually not serious, but can pose a greater danger to diabetics, people with poor blood flow to the foot or in the foot, as well as those who have poor immune systems. If an ingrown toenail infections is allowed to persist for a long time untreated, the infection can possibly pass into the bone below the skin, and create a more serious infection that requires aggressive treatment.